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A Birthday Present Wrapped in Love

We’d spent six long years waiting for a child, so the possibility of ADHD wasn’t enough to turn us away.

On our daughter Lee’s birthday, I sit at my desk and do what I’ve done for 14 years. I type an e-mail to thank her birth mother, the beautiful redhead with an enormous heart who made it possible for me to be a mother. Her selfless gift is our greatest joy.

No child comes without challenges, and we, like many others who raise a child with ADHD, have our share. Two months before Lee was born, I received a letter from her birth mother. In it, she mentioned that ADHD ran in her family. We’d spent six long years waiting for a child, so the possibility of ADHD wasn’t enough to turn us away.

As a high school teacher, I’d had kids with ADHD in my class and was familiar with the frustration of trying to make them sit still long enough to focus on a lesson. But, at the time, there was a lot of denial that ADHD even existed and a belief I had bought into, that these kids needed better parenting at home.

Then a little redhead came barreling into our lives and turned our world upside down. In Lee’s early years, I was too busy chasing her to ponder whether or not she had ADHD. I ran up the jungle gym before she pitched herself off, flew after her through parking lots, and dashed behind her down the center of the mall. Still, her mom’s letter stayed buried in a forgotten corner of my mind until the day, in first grade, when I found Lee overwhelmed and trembling under a classroom table. Her birth mother’s words rose sharply into focus, “ADHD runs in our family.”

After the diagnosis of ADHD and SPD, we followed the recommendation to have Lee repeat first grade and go to occupational therapy. We also hired a tutor to assist with her learning disabilities.

When a teacher said she didn’t believe in ADHD, I was ready. Armed with images of two brains, one with and one without ADHD, I demanded that Lee be given accommodations. When a teacher called Lee’s habit of chewing her sleeve “disgusting,” I described how sensory feedback calmed her hyperactivity. When an assistant principal pointed out her messy handwriting, I gave him the definition of dysgraphia, a learning disability that often stems from ADHD. I have learned to be tolerant, hoping education can create compassion, seeing in others my old ignorance and misguided beliefs.

Most of all, I learned to focus on Lee’s gifts. Her quirky sense of humor, a warm smile and throaty laugh, undying loyalty to friends, a gift for art that springs from her soul and never stays within the lines, an uncanny ability to find miracles in nature that others don’t see, and her bear hugs that make my day, every day.

I type, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are our angel.”